As chair of CSP Council, this is why I will be championing the independent sector

The CSP embraces and advocates for patient choice, understanding that if people want to – or feel they must – and have the resources to do so, they will access private health services.

by Ishmael Beckford

The CSP therefore understands the importance of those working in the independent sector and values its self-employed members. Having been a self-employed member this is particularly important to me.

I started my career as a junior physiotherapist in a small MSK private practice in west London. My experiences at the time have massively shaped my professional journey up to now.

Supporting patients through their recovery or helping them manage long-term conditions, often as a first point of contact, was both daunting and exhilarating. Due to the support I received, I learnt quickly and safely, and the experience cemented my passion for physiotherapy.

Broader learning opportunities

Being in an environment where there needed to be a dual focus of delivering excellent patient care and maintaining a viable business, exposed me to learning opportunities much broader than lots of my peers at the time.

Not only did I develop as a clinician, but I also built a solid base of knowledge around customer service, small business finance, referrer management and negotiation. The ever-present risk of no guaranteed income as a self-employed worker had an effect of further boosting my work ethic and desire to ensure I was an effective physiotherapist. 

I recall peers who I graduated with leaving the profession within a year of qualifying, because similarly to me they couldn’t find NHS roles due to job shortages. Although at the time it seemed an unorthodox option – and was even perhaps frowned upon in some quarters – I’m very proud of the decision I took to enter the independent sector to get my career off the ground.

Common challenges

This starting point put me on a path to lots of amazing experiences, ranging from working in small physio-owned private practices to large independent providers of healthcare services. The common positive traits I identified in those I worked with through this time, although not exclusive the sector, were diligence, entrepreneurialism, and resilience.

My experiences have exposed me to the excellent work physios do, irrespective of the area they work in. Both independent practice and the NHS have pockets of excellence to learn from and celebrate.

Although there are many challenges ahead, I am excited for the future of the profession, including the independent sector where more than a fifth the membership work in some part.

I have also come to recognise that although some challenges are sector specific, many are not. Workforce shortages and the need for fair pay are two examples. The development and growth of the physio workforce needs to consider the whole health system, including both public and independent sectors. Alongside our NHS colleagues, those in the independent sector should be compensated in a manner which reflects the skills of chartered physios, the costs they face, and which gives parity with other professions.

The CSP will maintaining its increased focus on the independent sector and the tailored support it offers, so keep an eye out for more resources and opportunities to engage. 

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